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    Daily Digest – May 10

    by Davos

    Sunday, May 10, 2009, 3:12 PM

  •  The End of Small Farms & Buying Local, Part II – HR 759 is in committee, worse than HR 875 (the Monsanto bill – Video)
  • How to feed the whole world (the case for white bread): Louise Fresco on TED.com
  • Calling a Spade a Spade
  • Net Claims is What Matters (Charts)
  • 1933 & Today (Then vs. Now similarities, Scridb)
  • Pushing 16% U6
  • "Ruminations on the Latest Unemployment Figures from the Bureau of Lies and Statistics"
  • Shadow Inventory (Video)
  • Percent Hob Losses in Post WWII Recessions (Chart)
  • FDIC to Open a Temporary Satellite Office, Jacksonville Office will Assist with  Bank Closings
  • Wholesale Sales Debacle Continues..(Chart)
  • USD – Don’t forget about me! (Chart)
  • Fannie Mae to Tap $19 Billion in Treasury Capital
  • California could be broke by July, state official warns
  •  A few A(H1N1) Links Dr. Henry Niman’s Map 2831 U.S. Cases as of this wrtitng, A(H1N1) Current Timeline, CDC Cases



How to feed the whole world (the case for white bread): Louise Fresco on TED.com (Video)

Louise Fresco argues that a smart approach to large-scale, industrial farming and food production will feed our planet’s incoming population of nine billion. Only foods like (the scorned) supermarket white bread, she says, will nourish on a global scale. (Recorded at TED2009, February 2009, in Long Beach, California. Duration: 18:00.)


Calling a Spade a Spade

Yet with all the bogus bullishness being pumped out by the shillmeisters in Washington and on Wall Street, it gives me some sense of hope to know that there are a few people in positions of authority who are a) capable of thinking clearly and b) willing to call a spade a spade. More specifically, I’m referring to Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor who chairs the committee overseeing the taxpayer-funded bank bailout. In "Bailout Watchdog: Credit Crunch Alive and Well," CNNMoney.com details her group’s assessment of the current health of the credit system.

In her latest report, Elizabeth Warren of the Congressional Oversight Panel says loans for small businesses and households are still tough to come by.

Despite recent encouraging signs in the economy, Americans are having a hard time getting credit and the effectiveness of government programs to spur lending is unclear, a congressional bailout watchdog said Thursday.

"A snapshot of small business credit at the beginning of 2009 shows credit terms tightening and loan volume dropping," the Congressional Oversight Panel wrote. "Families are facing an even more difficult situation."

The report looked at the availability of credit for small businesses and consumer loans, such as credit cards, auto loans and student loans. It also looked closely at the government’s TALF program meant to stimulate markets for those kinds of loans.

"Small business lending has not principally advanced through TALF," said the panel’s chief Elizabeth Warren on Thursday. "It’s much more through SBA loans, direct loans through community beaks and credit cards."

TALF — for Term Asset-Backed Lending Facility — aims to make consumer and small business loans more widely available by spurring what’s known as the securitization of those loans. In securitization, banks that make loans in turn sell them to investors — thus reducing the lenders’ cost and risk.

The securitization market in the first quarter of 2009 was 80% below the level in 2007, according to the report.

The five-member panel, established by the law enacted last fall at the height of the financial crisis that set aside $700 billion to bail out banks and other companies, is headed by Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren.

Warren has been an outspoken critic of the government’s handling of the bailouts, arguing forcefully that the government rescue efforts need more transparency and tougher standards on banks.

But her latest report also acknowledges that many forces could contribute to restricted lending.

Rising unemployment might mean that households will take on less credit card debt, for example. And as the economy slows, small businesses might have less need for credit.

Even so, the report expressed concern about the effectiveness of TALF to help. "Despite favorable loan terms, the TALF is only beginning to generate significant demand. Some of the slow growth of demand is attributable to lack of demand for securitization, some to claimed flaws in the program’s design, and some to fear of political risk. Under those conditions, it is difficult to predict at what rate the demand for TALF loans will increase."

Net Claims is What Matters (Charts)

1933 & Today (Then vs. Now similarities, Scridb)

Pushing 16% U6

The comprehensive unemployment rate which is referred to as U6 and includes part time workers that want full time jobs and discouraged workers that have stopped looking but will take a job if offered, rose to 15.8% from 15.6% and 9.2% in April 2008.

"Ruminations on the Latest Unemployment Figures from the Bureau of Lies and Statistics" 

Was today’s unemployment release another Orwell sighting? Reader (and economist) Gonzalo Lira thinks the numbers were more than a tad tweaked to produce a more palatable result
"We’re leveling off! We’re leveling off!"—so is the hope of Turbo Tim, Helicopter Ben, Larry the Wall Street Lackey and the rest of Team Obama. "This recession is leveling off!"

No it’s not: The unemployment figures just released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics are totally cosmetic: We lost a whole lot more than 531,000 unemployed.

First, the "seasonal adjustment", which is a black box that can tweek me into looking like Dumbo the flying elephant. They’re knocking off ±65,000 workers for no clearly discernible reason.

Second, notice that the Census Bureau hired 60,000 people last month. Those workers (by definition) are temporary, and are a net cost to the economy, as they will not be adding marginal utility to any economic sector, the census being merely a social expenditure.

Those two items alone turn 530,000 new unemployed into 655,000.

Now notice how, once again, previous months’ figures have been readjusted. This time, the readjustments weren’t so bad—a mere 30,000 more unemployed in February, turning that month’s official totals to 681,000, and another 30,000 for March, making that month’s official number 699,000, just shy of that magic 700,000 monthly number (BTW, remember back in the good old days when 300,000 monthly unemployed was "shocking"?)

But notice too: When those more realistic numbers were released, the markets were more or less copacetic—at least they weren’t nervously contemplating another suicidal round of cliff-diving, as we currently are. Ever since the October ’08 release of Sept. ’08 unemployment, when arguably the BLS numbers had a role in triggering the sell-off of
that very nasty month, the unemployment numbers have been generally rosy whenever there’s been general nervousness in the markets around the time of the number’s release. I know this sounds crazy-man
paranoid, but bear with me: Every time the markets have been nervous, the BLS numbers look pretty good, or at least not that bad, relatively speaking—and then the next month the figures are very quietly revised, sometimes by as much as 35% on the upward side.

I will bet one double Quarter Pounder with cheese and bacon that next month, the revisions of the April numbers will be on the order of an additional 85,000 unemployed. My guess is that, discounting the Census Bureau hirings, April saw 680,000 newly unemployed workers.

That would mean that unemployment isn’t accelerating—but it’s still growing fast enough to scare the hell out of anyone sane. And anyway, what industry or sector of the economy will be able to absorb all of those unemployed workers in the near-term future?

Now wait for May and especially June numbers, when 2 million new college grads can’t find steady work.

This baby ain’t over yet.

Shadow Inventory (Video)

Percent Hob Losses in Post WWII Recessions (Chart)

FDIC to Open a Temporary Satellite Office, Jacksonville Office will Assist with  Bank Closings

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) today announced it will open a temporary satellite office in Jacksonville, Florida, to manage receiverships and to liquidate assets from failed financial institutions primarily located in the eastern states.

After conducting a competitive leasing acquisition process, the FDIC entered into a short-term agreement to lease space at 7777 Baymeadows Way in Jacksonville. The decision was based on mission needs and workload.

The new office will provide facilities for up to 500 nonpermanent staff and contractors. Staffing will be based on the workload needs of this office, based on the number of closings in the eastern states, the resulting number of receiverships, and the post-closing workload.

Throughout its history, the FDIC has used these offices to keep temporary asset resolution staff closer to the concentration of failed bank assets they oversee. As the work diminishes, the temporary satellite offices are closed.

The FDIC expects to gradually move into the space starting in mid-September 2009

Wholesale Sales Debacle Continues…(Chart)

You sure the worst is behind us? Even though inventories dropped along with these sales, the inventory to sales ratio continues to rise

USD – Don’t forget about me! (Chart) 

Fannie Mae to Tap $19 Billion in Treasury Capital

May 8 (Bloomberg) — Fannie Mae, operating under a federal conservatorship, asked the U.S. Treasury for a $19 billion capital investment and raised the possibility that its long-term survival may be dependent on continued government funding.

Fannie Mae, which took $15.2 billion in aid on March 31, cited the “unprecedented” housing market slump and government- mandated programs that are creating “conflicts in strategic and day-to-day decision making,” according to company filings today with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

California could be broke by July, state official warns

Adding to the fiscal woes, the Obama administration is threatening to pull $6.8 billion in stimulus funds from California in a dispute over an earlier state budget cut.

"The Legislature is going to need to act promptly," said state Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer. "We have a fairly short window to get a lot done."

As the ballot measures lag in the polls, the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has begun revealing the cuts it is weighing as an alternative.

On Thursday, the administration advised law enforcement officials that it was preparing plans to commute the sentences of 38,000 state prison inmates, including all illegal immigrants. It also is considering closing some prisons and sending inmates to county jails, according to a copy of the proposal obtained by The Times.

Under the plan, 19,000 illegal immigrants — 11% of state prisoners — would be turned over to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency after having their sentences commuted. An additional 19,000 "relatively low-risk offenders" would have their sentences commuted as well.

Earlier in the week, the administration warned local officials that it may raid their budgets for $2 billion and close firehouses.

Opponents of the ballot measures call such proposals scare tactics.

"It’s all about fear," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. "This week it’s firefighters; next week they’ll threaten school closures."

Even if the measures succeed, Taylor said, the state faces serious and immediate financial problems. California’s credit rating is so weak that the state is unlikely to be able to borrow money to buy time to address them, he wrote. Lenders have signaled to California that they may not be able to make loans on the scale the state would need.

"Without additional legislative measures to address the state’s fiscal difficulties or unprecedented amounts of borrowing from short-term credit markets, the state will not be able to pay many of its bills," Taylor wrote.

He cautioned lawmakers against asking the federal government to help the state secure loans that might provide relief. "The difficult decisions to balance the state’s budget now are preferable to Californians losing some control over the state’s finances and priorities to federal officials for years to come," Taylor wrote.

The debate over what budget actions to take is expected to intensify once Schwarzenegger issues a revised spending plan later this month.

The unpopularity of the ballot measures appears to reflect intense voter distrust of Sacramento. Just 16% of likely voters say they trust the state government to do the right thing. Schwarzenegger’s approval rating remains at a near-historic low, 34%. The state Legislature’s, meanwhile, stands at an anemic 12%.

"The voters seem interested in delivering a message," said Mark Baldassare, Public Policy Institute of California president and survey director. "The measures are very complex and confusing to voters — and they don’t seem to have trust in what the governor and Legislature have put before them."

Just 28% of likely voters say they are following news about the ballot measures very closely, although that number is up from 18% in March. Those voters are focusing most of their attention on Proposition 1A.


 A few A(H1N1) Links Dr. Henry Niman’s Map 2,831 U.S. Cases as of this wrtitng, A(H1N1) Current TimelineCDC Cases

The End of Small Farms & Buying Local, Part II – HR 759 is in committee, worse than HR 875 (the Monsanto bill – Video)

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